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Title: The family of impersonal constructions in European Portuguese : an onomasiological constructional approach
Author: Afonso, Susana Pinto Cavadas
ISNI:       0000 0001 3398 9423
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2008
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In this thesis, I explore the constructions speakers of European Portuguese use to express the impersonal function in language. Impersonalisation is defined as a functional category which demotes or suppresses participants from the event scene through the construal speakers impose on the event being described. Impersonals also comprise types of events which naturally lack participants, such as natural events. In this thesis, I will focus specifically on impersonalisation as a device used by the speaker to demote or suppress the participants in the event frame and which rank higher in the semantic role hierarchy. Upon the investigation of a transcribed oral corpus of European Portuguese, and departing from the defmition of impersonalisation, the following constructions were identified which convey an impersonal meaning: se constructions (anticausative, passive, desubjective and potential se constructions), the periphrastic passive construction, nominalisations (action and de-adjectival nominals) and infinitival constructions, haver constructions, lexical constructions, and personal- and indefinitepronoun constructions. The construction grammar perspective enables the analysis of the above structures as pairings of form and meaning/function, disclosing the internal symbolic structure between a formal configuration and particular instances ofthe impersonal function. Given the principle of non-synonymy in language, the functional varation of the constructions is accounted for by the different construal operations which underlie each construction. Each construction evokes a different construal or image of the event being conceptualised - none of the constructions exhibit the exactly the same construal operations. The results of the study show that impersonalisation is pervasive in language, being expressed in diverse ways and it is transversal to other functions in language. The constructions connect to different regions along the syntax-lexicon continuum, ranging from constructs (specific lexical constructions) to macro-constructions (schematic syntactic constructions). The study also allows the refinement of the definition of impersonalisation as a superordinate functional category which is subcategorised into four different types, according to notions of reference, specificity and genericity as well as demotion and suppression.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available